My elderly patient tells me that she wants to be euthanized… She is not a believer. How should I respond?
First of all, thank you very much for your question. These are important issues, issues of life and death. It might have been some time ago that you posted this question, so I do not know if the situation has changed in the meantime. Leaving that aside, let me try to give some guidance as to how to approach an unsaved elderly patient who is longing for death.
I assume you are knowledgeable of your rights as nurses or doctors. Canada.ca states: “Not all health care providers will be comfortable with medical assistance in dying. The federal practice may not be consistent with a provider’s beliefs and values. The federal legislation does not force any person to provide or help to provide medical assistance in dying.”1 That as to what your rights are legally as a Canadian.
But your question is much deeper, how do I approach someone as a Christian. Knowing that this person is not saved. How can I move toward my elderly patient? What should I ask? What should I say?
There are several things you can do that show that you care. So, I think you need to find out why she desires death. Is it pain that bothers her? Or, is it loneliness? Or, is it hopelessness? Or, is it depression? Or is there anything else?
Now, when you know why she is asking for euthanasia… Then you figure out how you can best assist her alleviating these factors that bother her. Try to give her more attention when she feels lonely. Talk to a doctor when it is pain that bothers her. Why does she have no hope? Why would she be depressed. Why is something else going on?
It might be that all she needs is someone to show her genuine love and care. A listening ear… A helpful hand… Some extra attention. I understand that with busy schedules this is often challenging. But, isn’t that what we are called to do as Christians? Isn’t our desire to be like the hands and feet of Jesus Christ to her?
Genuine compassion might then also open the door for the Gospel. Because, she is not just a body, she has a never-dying soul. And behind her cry for death lies a heart that doesn’t have peace with God! Behind her cry for death is a heart that has been living apart from God. So, this is an opportunity to talk to her about the Gospel, and about her soul.
You might want to find out, what has she been living for? You might want to find out does she know anything about Christianity? You might want to find out what she believes about sin, death and hell? You might want to find out whether she has ever considered that she will have to appear before God? And what happens when God requires sinlessness from us?
The more you know about how she thinks, what she has been believing. The more you will be able to fit the Gospel message to the needs of her soul. And the more you will be able to speak about the beauty of the Lord Jesus. And the prospect that when we know Him, and trust in Him for the forgiveness of our sins, we learn to be content in whatsoever state we are in (Phil 4:11-13). And we learn to accept that there is a reason that we still live, and that we can die with hope in God. So, that we can say with Paul: For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. (Phil 1:21)
So bottom line is this, prayerfully start a conversation.
· Find out why she desires death.
· Find out what she needs to make life more bearable for her.
· Find out what she believes and what she lived for.
· And bring the Gospel to her.
When the Lord is pleased to use your words, and the Holy Spirit comes alongside, she might repent, and turn to the Lord and die with hope. But she might also ignore your counsel and chose death… which would be sad but possible. But if you have prayerfully done what you could you will have to leave it in the hand of the Lord.
These might be many small conversations, these might be just moments, conversations like these are never as neat and organized as I have written them. But, know that the Lord can give you wisdom and the right words.
I hope this give you some guidance. If you have any further questions about this situation, please feel free to write me an email ([email protected]). May the Lord bless you richly as you seek to minister a cup of cold water to a needy soul.